About the Human Food Project

Nobody tells a giraffe how to eat. But for the first time in history, humans don’t know what to eat. We no longer know what human food is.

IMG_2088In just a few thousand centuries, our kind has gone from nesting in trees, to making stone tools and digging roots, to kindling fires, to subduing flora and fauna, to finally erecting massive cities and dropping rovers onto distant planets. For most of this evolution, our super organism (us and our microbes) adapted to a nutritional and cultural landscape that literally changed at a glacial pace. But more recently, rapid adoption of technology and need to feed a growing population a shelf-stable food supply, along with hyper-sanitized food and water, increasing rates of c-section births, formula in lieu of breast milk and antibiotics for every sniffle, we are now out of sync not only with the natural world, but with the microbial world as well. Therefore, it is correct to say that a great many diseases of the modern world represent a discordance with the ancient microbial world.

The biological reality that we are vessels to a vast microbial ecosystem is radically altering our basic understanding of medicine, nutrition, public health and the very scientific foundation of what makes us sick. The Human Food Project (a 501(c)3 non profit) is an effort to understand modern disease against the back drop of our ancestral/microbial past. Through a better understanding of human ecology at different time scales, the coevolution of us and the trillions of microbes that live on and in our bodies is likely to open new doors to understanding. Fingers crossed.

jeff [A] humanfoodproject [DOT] com






32 Comments Add yours

  1. Chef Jem says:

    Thank You, Jeff!

    I am interested in the initial results that apparently is being published this year.

    I wonder whether microscopy can help show the contrast between the two categories of samples.

    I’m finding deep appreciation for a certain new medicine perspective on disease as a meaningful biological survival program of nature that is created to support an organism during an unexpected distress. However, I can not dispute the findings of well-documented practitioners like Weston A. Price and the importance of traditional food-based nutrition. I have also stated in my blogs that there are additional components to be considered for understanding health, i.e. the social sphere. When I consider all these perspectives together they indicate a multidimensional integration. That does not diminish the place of what is observable (even if it requires a microscope to see it) however the added perspectives do offer more food for thought.

    In Gratitude!

    ~Chef Jem

  2. Christine B. says:

    Once again…I have a comment about Ethiopians. I wonder whether cultures who feed their children with their hand and eat with their hand are benefiting, not benefiting, or are just neutral in health benefits.

    1. Jeff Leach says:

      not sure anyone knows. at least, have done the 16S rRNA work on a large enough sample (and control group) to know if it matters. at face value I would say its a benefit… but….

  3. Jim Beecham says:

    Something tells me that Vitamin D levels in the human blood can change the gut microbiotome. Perhaps this is already known, but I can’t seem to find much about this in online searching.

    Will your findings of bacteria species be referenced in some way to Vitamin D levels, perhaps for distance north or south of equator? The Hadza presumably have plenty of time in the sun year round to gain Vitamin D3 and the other 4 or 5 known metabolites of sun exposure which accumulate in human blood.

    Since vitamin D utilizes a nuclear receptor in human cells, I wonder which bacteria have a similar receptor if any, and what affect vitamin D (which is water soluble in D3 form) takes in relation to our gut bacteria.

  4. Jim Beecham says:

    The reason I suspect Vitamin D status is key for healthy gut colonization is explained by an article as follows: J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 May; 127(5): 1087–1094.
    PMCID: PMC3085575
    NIHMSID: NIHMS278220
    Gut Microbiota, Probiotics, and Vitamin D: Interrelated Exposures Influencing Allergy, Asthma, and Obesity?
    Ngoc P. Ly, MD, MPH,1 Augusto Litonjua, MD, MPH,2 Diane R. Gold, MD, MPH,2 and Juan C. Celedón, MD, DrPH3
    Vitamin D, Gut Microbiota, Asthma and Obesity
    Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with early-life wheeze, reduced asthma control20, 21, 45and allergic diseases20, 45 and increased body mass index.46–48 In our recent review in this Journal,6 we had identified both gut microbiota and vitamin D as potential common early life exposures for asthma and obesity. It is unknown whether vitamin D deficiency affects the composition of the intestinal microbiota. While a small study suggested that decreased vitamin D intake was correlated with differences in fecal microbiota composition,123 this needs to be verified in larger cohorts.
    Given the role of vitamin D in T-regulatory and dendritic cell development and function (reviewed in Griffin et al124 and in Adorini and Penna125), it is possible that the host’s vitamin D status could modify the effect of the intestinal microbiota on the immune system. For example, mice that lack the vitamin D receptor (VDR) have chronic, low-grade inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.126Furthermore, the absence of the VDR leads to decreased homing of T cells to the gut, resulting in further inflammation in response to normally nonpathogenic bacterial flora.126 Intestinal VDR has also been shown to be directly involved in suppression of bacteria-induced NF-κB activation.127 Wu and colleagues127 also showed that commensal bacterial colonization affects both the distribution and expression of VDR in intestinal epithelial cells, suggesting a dynamic interplay between these bacteria and the receptor.
    Thus, emerging evidence suggest that the vitamin D pathway is a potentially important modifier of the effects of intestinal flora on inflammatory disorders.
    Probiotic supplementation with specific strain or strains of microbes may be beneficial in the prevention of childhood atopic dermatitis when given in the prenatal or early postnatal life. However, the results of several trials have been inconsistent with regard to the type of probiotic used, the dosing and timing of the agent selected, and the population(s) likely to benefit. Based on current data, we cannot yet recommend probiotics as preventive treatment for atopic dermatitis, allergic sensitization, asthma, or obesity.
    Recent experimental and epidemiological data suggest diverse gut colonization early in life, rather than specific microbial strain or strains, is likely the key factor in promoting normal immune development and maintaining immune homeostasis. Additionally, the role of the vitamin D receptor and the host’s vitamin D status have not been accounted for in these studies. Therefore, well-designed birth cohort studies with extensive data on neonatal gut and maternal vaginal/gut microbiome, immune responses, vitamin D status and vitamin D genomics, and confounding/modifying variables (e.g., maternal and neonatal diet) are needed to further delineate the underlying immune modulation by gut microbiota important in the development and prevention of allergic diseases, asthma and obesity.

    (123. Mai V, McCrary QM, Sinha R, Glei M. Associations between dietary habits and body mass index with gut microbiota composition and fecal water genotoxicity: an observational study in African American and Caucasian American volunteers. Nutr J. 2009;8:49.)

    1. Carol says:

      I find the vitamin D-bowel microflora link to be very interesting! Recent research is suggesting that people with MS have a different pro- and anti-inflammatory epigenetic factors in the intestinal microbiome that may contribute to their disease pathogenesis. (Medscape) MS patients also tend to have vitamin D deficiency. Since I have MS, I’m all ears.

  5. Jim Beecham says:

    In 1983, researchers* found that the level of vitamin D in breast milk was lower for American Black women than for American Caucasian women. This explained the higher rate of rickets in blacks at that time. Since obesity is also related to gut microbiota as influenced by breast feeding, it appears the higher rate of obesity in American Blacks today might be due to their mothers’ lower breast milk Vitamin D as well. Hence the need to correlate Vitamin D levels with your data.

    (Darker skin pigmentation means the breast feeding mother has a greater need for sun exposure time to generate similar levels of Vitamin D in breast milk. Hadza in Africa have dark skin but also abundant sun exposure as compared to black women in USA.)

    *Maternal Factors Affecting the Vitamin D Content of Human Milk …
    link.springer 978-1-4615-7207-7_31‎
    by BW Hollis – ‎1986

  6. uni5 says:

    I have done some personal research on gut bacteria for many years. please look at my site on the effect of some gut cleansing practices. I like to get your email contact and discuss about it. Though I will see at PAG, I like to discuss through email now. Thanks. http://www.uni5.co/index.php/en/whole-grains/gut-bacteria.html

  7. lm says:

    I ordered a box of “Human Food Bars” from this project but never received it. None of the emails pertaining to this project work and many of the websites are down. Is this project now defunct?

    1. Jeff Leach says:

      sorry, just saw this email. no, boxes of human food bars ship out every day. send us a quick email to jeff AT humanfoodproject DOT com with your full details and we can check on. note every box is sent with a tracking number so we can check if it was delivered.

  8. Eric says:

    We still have not received our kit… it’s going on five weeks now. I posted a comment about it and someone replied; said they’d send out a replacement… but so far, nothing. Very frustrating. We’re out $106. Based on the experience so far, we would not recommend being involved with this project. There’s no one to call, for example, to find out what happened to our money – and how to resolve this problem. Just an annoying link to Facebook, which some of us actually do not want to have anything to do with, believe it or not. Sorry for the rant, just angry and unhappy that we have no kit – and you have our money.

    1. Jeff Leach says:

      Hi Eric, You can send a quick email to info@americangut.org and Elaine in the lab can help you.

  9. Robert says:

    A company named Viome claims that their metatranscriptomic analysis is superior to the 16S sequencing (they also charge more for it). Do you have any comment regarding this claim?

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